Homicides drop in King County

From staff reports:

King County saw the lowest number of deaths due to homicide in 2010 in the past 10 years.

There were 59 homicides last year compared to 63 in 2009 and 85 in 2008.

The number of suicides also declined, dropping nearly 10 percent (253 to 232) from 2009, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s report released Dec. 19.

The 2010 annual report presents a detailed analysis of deaths that fell under the medical examiner’s jurisdiction in 2010, including suspicious, sudden, unexpected or violent deaths in King County, as well as trends in homicides, traffic fatalities and drug overdose deaths. Other findings from the 2010 annual report:

• Compared with 2009, King County had fewer homicides, suicides, accidental deaths and deaths from natural causes.

• Traffic fatalities declined by nearly one-third over the past 10 years, with 150 in 2010.

• 18 infants died of SIDS.

• While accidental drug overdoses declined from 2009 to 2010, they still comprised more than a third of accidental deaths.

• Firearms were the most frequent instrument of death in homicides and suicides.

• 156 organ transplants were possible in 2010 from medical examiner cases.

• In 2010, there were an estimated 12,959 deaths in King County. The medical examiner assumed jurisdiction in 2,060 deaths and performed autopsies 9 percent (1,199) of the time.

There was a substantial decrease in the number of methadone and oxycodone deaths from 2009 to 2010. Methadone was present in 77 deaths in 2010, compared to 129 in 2009, and was the primary cause of death in 67 of those deaths in 2010, compared to 85 in 2009. Oxycodone was present in 77 deaths in 2010 compared to 105 deaths in 2009. The report said it is important to continue tracking the decrease in overdose deaths to see if the trend is sustained.

“Understanding how and why people died in King County allows us to target our public health efforts to prevent early deaths,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. “Take traffic fatalities, for example. We know that alcohol and drug impairment, speed and not wearing seatbelts contribute to traffic fatalities. So we work with partners throughout King County to help alleviate those causes and hopefully save lives.”

For a copy of the full King County Medical Examiner’s 2010 annual report, call (206) 731-3232 or visit


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